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the materials of Fingal, and of those other delighte ful productions which bear the name of Ossian. To these productions Dr Blair applied the test of genuine criticism, and soon after their publication, gave an estimate of their merits in a Dissertation, which, for beauty of language, delicacy of taste, and acuteness of critical investigation, has few
раrallels. It was printed in 1763, and spread the reputation of its author throughout Europe.
The great objects of his literary ambition being now attained, his talents were for many years consecrated solely to the important and peculiar employments of his station. It was not till the
year 1777 that he could be induced to favour the world with a volume of the Sermons which had so long furnished instruction and delight to his own congregation. But this volume being well received, the public approbation encouraged him to proceed : three other volumes followed at different intervals and all of them experienced a degree of success of which few publications can boast. They circulated rapidly and widely wherever the English tongue extends; they were soon translated into almost all the languages of Europe ; and his present Majesty, with that wise attention to the interests of religion and literature which distinguishes his reign, was graciously pleased to judge them worthy of a public reward. By a royal mandate to the Exchequer in Scotland, dated July 25th, 1780, a pension of L.200 a-year was conferred on their author, which continued unaltered till his death.
The motives which gave rise to the present volume * are sufficiently explained by himself in his Address to the Reader. The Sermons which it contains were composed at very different periods of his life; but they were all written out anew in his own hand, and in many parts re-composed, during the course of last summer, after he had completed his eighty-second year. They were delivered to the publishers about six weeks before his death, in the form and order in which they now appear. And it may gratify his readers to know, that the last of them which he composed, though not the last in the order adopted for publication, was the Sermon on A Life of Dissipation and Pleasure—a sermon written with great dignity and eloquence, and which should be regarded as his solemn parting admonition to a class of men, whose conduct is highly important to the community, and whose reformation and virtue he had long laboured most zealously to promote.
The Sermons which he has given to the world are universally admitted to be models in their kind; and they will long remain durable monuments of the piety, the genius, and sound judgment of their author. But they formed only a small part of the Discourses he prepared for the pulpit. The remainder, modesty led him to think unfit for the press ; and influenced by an excusable solicitude for his reputation, he left behind him an explicit
* This Life was originally annexed to the fifth and last voJume.
injunction that his numerous manuscripts should be destroyed. The greatness of their number was creditable to his professional character, and exbibited a convincing proof that his fame as a public teacher had been honourably purchased, by the most unwearied application to the private and unseen labours of his office. It rested on the uniform intrinsic excellence of his discourses, in point of matter and composition, rather than on foreign attractions ; for his delivery, though distinct, serious and impressive, was not remarkably distinguished by that magic charm of voice and action which captivates the senses and imagination, and which, in the estimation of superficial hearers, constitutes the chief merit of a preacher.
In that department of his professional duty, which regarded the government of the church, Dr Blair was steadily attached to the cause of moderation. From diffidence, and perhaps from a certain degree of inaptitude for extemporary speaking, he took a less public part in the contests of ecclesiastical politics than some of his contemporaries; and, from the same causes, he never would consent to become Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. But his influence among his brethren was extensive ; his opinion, guided by that sound uprightness of judgment, which formed the predominant feature of his intellectual character, had been always held in high respect by the friends with whom he acted ; and, for many of the last years of his life, it was received by them almost as
a law. The great leading principle in which they cordially concurred with him, and which directed all their measures, was to preserve the church, on the one side, from a slavish, corrupting dependence on the civil power, and, on the other, from a greater infusion of democratical influence than is compatible with the established constitution of the country.
The reputation which he acquired in the discharge of his public duties, was well sustained by the great respectability of his private character. Deriving from family associations a strong sense of clerical decorum, feeling on his heart deep impressions of religious and moral obligation, and guided in his intercourse with the world by the same correct and delicate taste which appeared in his writings, he was eminently distinguished through life by the prudence, purity, and dignified propriety of his conduct. His mind, by constitution and culture, was admirably formed for enjoying happiness. Wellbalanced in itself by the nice proportion and adjustment of its faculties, it did not incline him to any of those eccentricities, either of opinion or of action, which are too often the lot of genius :-free from all tincture of envy, it delighted cordially in the prosperity and fame of his companions ; sensible to the estimation in which he himself was held, it disposed him to dwell at times on the thought of his success with a satisfaction which he did not affect to conceal : inaccessible alike to gloomy and to peevish impressions, it was always master of its own movements, and ready, in an uncommon degree, to take an active and pleasing interest in every thing, whether important or trifling, that happened to become for the moment the object of his attention. This habit of mind, tempered with the most unsuspecting simplicity, and united to eminent talents and inflexible integrity, while it secured to the last his own relish of life, was wonderfully calculated to endear him to his friends, and to render him an invaluable member of any society to which he belonged. Accordingly, there haye been few meii more universally respected by those who knew him, more sincerely esteemed in the circle of his acquaintance, or more tenderly beloved by those who enjoyed the blessings of his private and domestic connection.
In April 1748, he married his cousin, Katharine Bannatine, daughter of the Rev. James Bannatine, one of the ministers of Edinburgh. By her he had a son who died in infancy, and a daughter, who lived to her twenty-first year, the pride of her parents, and adorned with all the accomplishments that became her age and sex. Mrs Blair, herself, a woman of great good sense and spirit, was also taken from him a few years before his death, after she had shared, with the tenderest affection, in all his fortunes, and contributed near half a century to his happiness and comfort.
Dr Blair had been naturally of a feeble constitution of body ; but as he grew up, his constitution acquired greater firmness and vigour. Though liable to occasional attacks from some of the sharpest and most painful diseases that afflict the human